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glebb

Les Sylphides

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I recently viewed a video of ABT's Les Sylphides.

Baryshnikov, the dreamy Marrianna Tcherkassky, Cheryl Yeager and buoyent Cynthia Harvey are the principles.

Baryshnikov's solo was danced to different music than I seen in the past. Does anyone know why? Is his original Chopinanna music?

I have to say ABT knows how to do Les Sylphides.

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There are two different mazurkas used for the male variation in "Les Sylphides" - they are both rather slow, but for some reason, the one that Baryshnikov danced to is referred to as the "slow" one, and the one we're used to called the "fast" one. The choreography is pretty much the same for both, some dancers electing to start in a different corner, but there's really not much difference between the two. Fokine used both during his lifetime.

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I always thought ABT's was too slow. I wanted to bribe the conductor to pep up the tempo! But I did like Baryshnikov a lot in that. The soaring, of course, but also the softness of the landings. The richness of his body suited that sole. (I also liked Tcherkassky on stage. She probably doesn't videotape as well as the other two, but she could be lovely in the right role.)

Glebb, I think I remember reading that Baryshnikov brought with him the sllo he'd learned in Russia. There are, I believe, as many different versions of Les Sylphides as there are companies Fokine visited.

There are also quite a few on video. I like the Royal's mid-60s version with Fonteyn and Nureyev -- and I never could figure out who the other ballerinas were. It's interesting because it's more classical trhan romantic, yet still very soft and musical.

There's also a Bolshoi one. I THINK I saw this long ago, as a film, with Ulanova and N. Fadeyechev.

There must be a Kirov version on video -- you can have a Les Sylphides festival, Glebb :)

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Yes, there is a Kirov Les Sylphides, on the Kirov Classics/Mariinsky Ballet video, with Konstantin Zaklinsky, Altynai Asylmuratova, Yelena Pankova, and Anna Polikarpova. Slightly different orchestration than ABT--a bit faster I think--and larger corps de ballet, also different lighting, less blue.

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Great topic, Glebb...

Did you do the mazurka? What was it like to dance? Looks like the jumps are all soft, to deep fondu -- must take a lot of stretch and a lot of breath....

And of htecourse the pas de deux, your cabrioles would have to be so clear and so distinct ath te same time as you're being totally in touch with your partner, who's bourrees are going to show it if you jar her at all -- and aren't you both going BACKWARDS most of the time?

What a beautiful ballet.......

at, I THINK the second ballerina -- the blonde, WONDERFUL dancer -- is SIbley-- the one who does the quick jetes onto pointe and the tour jetes ending in arabesque looking peek-a-boo under the arm.... couldn't b e Beriosova, or could it?

Nureyev was very poetic in that mazurka -- so soft, so musical, such beautiful line... And Fonteyn is so musical, the way she coupes and launches into her bourrees, it's dreamy....

The Oakland Ballet -- I know, I must sound like their PR agent, God knows it isn't so, they've been an EXASPERATING company, but they DID do a beautiful Sylphides --

though they never filled the male role adequately, the ladies danced it beautifully -- well, it was such a pleasure to see it LIVE, in 3-D-- certain effects that are VERY beautiful, you have to be there to see... like at some point when everybody's dancing downstage right, the ballerina by herself upstage Left (it was Lara Deans Lowe who made me see this) does a long-sustained arabesque allongee that points to them...... maybe I hallucinated this image (it's the sort of thing a video cameraman might leave out altogether, since you have to see hte whole stage-picture to see it); it hangs in my imagination, though, as almost aharmonic convergence, something LIKE that must happen -- maybe "the miseries" (the Moyna and Zulma of Les Sylphides) were doing something, or maybe it was the ballerina and her partner and it was the seconda donna who made this reverence to them, but it was a WONDERFUL effect, very very quiet....

The last time they did it, Phaedra Jarrett danced one of the supporting variatinos with such an exquisite softness in the upper body, such generous qualities to the breath, you could feel Isadora Duncan inspiring Fokine’s project, that way she had of making the movement start in the breath that you can still see in Valentine Gross's drawings of her....

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I don't know whether glebb danced the mazurka in performance or not, but he's never mentioned doing the ballet, and we've been friends for over thirty years. I do know, however, that he knows everybody's part in the work. We used to diddy-bop around the studio talking about witchy male variations, and "Sylphides" happens to be one of his favorite ballets. I danced the thing under the supervision of Vitale Fokine, and it's a deceptive little devil of a variation.

The slow tempo makes phrasing and attack paramount, and talk about casting against type - I was a demi-caractére dancer and here I was doing this dreamy legato! There's enough time in the music, given the tempo for the ups to be very much up and the downs to be very much down, but you have to move between the two more like a soap bubble being carried on a breeze. No "chugging" in the pas de mazourke! One of the trickier parts is in the very opening combination, which sets the tone and style for the whole rest of the dance. It's two mazurka steps, an assemblé dessus, a sissone to first arabesque and then a piqué into attitude croisé onto the foot that's raised in arabesque! And all seamless and with a liquid but still masculine port de bras throughout.

Compared and contrasted with the legato male variations that sprang up in ballets during the late 60s and early 70s, this one has them beat all to little pieces in terms of style and technical demand on a male dancer!

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On the Royal Ballet video of Les Sylphides the Valse is danced by Merle Park and the Mazurka by Annette Page, both dancers I remember very well. Park was particularly musical, a wonderful dancer indeed. Annette Page was one of those dancers who was always overshadowed by the great dancers of that era - Fonteyn, Sibley, Park and Seymour, but nevertheless she danced many leading roles. I love that video, because it shows Nureyev exactly as I remember him.

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Thanks, Helena. I guessed Park, but she's chubbier than she was by the time I saw her in the late '70s. I also remember her as very musical. I never saw Page, so thank you for the identifications.

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I've heard that Glazounov orchestrated Chopin's piano music for "Les Sylphides". Was the ballet named "Les Sylphides" from the very start? If so, what was "Chopinianna"?

I've also heard that for "Chopinianna", the march, that is used at the beginning of Robbin's "The Concert" ,was the overture.

Does anyone know?

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Back in the days of the original "Chopiniana", the ballet was a suite of dances, all of which were danced. The original first movement was the "Military" polonaise, which was danced by a corps of character dances, there was a Tarantella for a corps of demi-caractére dancers, complete with Vesuvius backdrop. I believe the Prelude was for a seated "Chopin" with the ballerina acting as his "muse", part of which has been preserved in the choreography presently used - all those "listening" poses. The Valse pas de deux was pretty much as we see it today, and that's about as far as my memory goes on the first state of "Chopiniana", and yes, Glazunov was the arranger. I'm not certain about the second state of the score, but memory keeps pinging Liadov as having had something to do with it.

As a ballet, "Les Sylphides" first appears with that name in public at the 1909 Season of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes.

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Thanks Mel! That mind of yours contains so much amazing info!

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CHOPINIANA, Fokine's earliest version of the ballet now known as LES SYLPHIDES, was first given in 1907, orchestrated by Glazunov, with the Maryinsky Theater ballet in St. Petersburg, for a benefit performance. A subsequent version, also performed by the Marysinksy Theater ballet also in St. Petersburg, for a charity benefit, and called REVERIED ROMANTIQUE - BALLET SUR LA MUSIQUE DE CHOPIN (and now known as CHOPINIANA, SECOND VERSION)was given in 1908 (set by the Vsevolozhky's forest panorama drop from "The Sleeping Beauty"), in this instance the orchestrations were by Maurice Keller and Glazunov.

In 1909, with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, LES SYLPHIDES (re-christened thus by Diaghilev and more or less in the shape known widely since then) was given in Paris, with orchestrations by Igor Stravinsky, Alexander Taneyev, and Galzunov.

w/ regard to the "Polonaise Militaire," to this day, or at least when it was last given hereabouts, the Kirov/Marysinksy Ballet has used this composition, orchestrated as in THE CONCERT, as an overture to its staging of CHOPINIANA.

i'm not sure if this rousing polonaise was part of the 1909 Paris premiere.

[my source for this information is appendix A in Lynn Garafola's DIAGHILEV'S BALELTS RUSSES (Oxford University Press, 1998)]

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I will never forget the Trockadero's appropriately jarring choreography to the Military Polonaise in their own version of Les Sylphides, which featured a strutting and saluting Red Army general, complete with boots and medals. Pehaps they were making a point about the incongruity of starting such a refined and atmospheric ballet with a overly rousing character piece.

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Now it occurs to me why Liadov kept springing up! He was involved in arranging something "Le Festin" and was nearly the composer for "Firebird", had not his legendary laziness kept him from even buying his score paper until after the music was due!

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Mel, I wish I'd seen you dance this role -- sounds like you hav hte feeling AND the build for it --

i wishI'd seen you dance, period...

you know, Nijinsky himself was not a tall, classically poportioned dancer. On the contrary, he was a short dancer with bulky muscles, but with a long neck and a fantastic way of carrying his head and arms, a wonderful ability to pull his lines in hte air, and (well, I guess) a poetic nature.....

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I'm resurrecting this thread in anticipation of a week's worth of Chopinianas (Les Sylphides) danced by the Mariinsky at the Kennedy Center, beginning tonight.

It's hard to believe that this was once one of the the most favorite ballets among the public and used to be the opener for every ABT season not so long ago.

Where does Chopiniana/Sylphides fall in you top list of favorites...or does it even make a blip on the radar screen in 2012, a little over 100 years after its premiere? I've always found great satisfaction in this ballet - pure dance, pure beauty. However, almost all recent versions that I've seen live (ABT, Kirov-Mar or Bolshoi) take it verrrrry s-l-o-wwwwwwwwly.

Which of the two male mazurkas do you prefer? I love the 'non-Soviet' male variation that, at present, exists on commercial film only in the recent Australia Ballet-Diaghilev Centennial airing (Yosvani Ramos as the Poet).

p.s. - I take it back - the 'western' Male Mazurka can also be seen in the recent 'DVD reissue' of the BBC-1953 edition with John Field as the Poet (version that also stars Alicia Markova)...but I prefer Yosvani Ramos - another 'Nijinsky-esque' short dancer with bulky muscles. Nureyev dances the Soviet mazurka in the 1960s Royal Ballet version with Fonteyn.

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I didn't think I would like Sylphides, b/c I thought, "How could an abstract Sylphides be better than the original La Sylphide (different ballet altogether)? Sounds silly!" But then I saw the Nureyev version that I got from Netflix and then two others, and now I LOVE this ballet! It is truly gorgeous. I like it better with the crumbling castle as opposed to a Kirov version with a pastoral scene. Since they are spirits, a nighttime haunted atmosphere seems better.

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Chopiniana is a ballet that I would pick over EVERY single ballet-(with the only exception of Giselle)-in the event of being asked. It is also in my very earliest memories of watching ballet, as it has been performed non stopping every single year in Cuba since 1948. I haven't seen it live ever since I left the island, and I really mourn this fact. It is just a masterpiece of a ballet...everything that I can ask from the art form. What a pity that it is missing from many ballet companies repertoire...

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Sylphides/Chopiniana officially enters my pantheon of ballets after last night's extraordinarily beautiful performance at the Kenn Center....making up for merely-ok Firebird and a mostly-mediocre Scheherazade. Yet again, Chopiniana saved the day!

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Sylphides/Chopiniana officially enters my pantheon of ballets after last night's extraordinarily beautiful performance at the Kenn Center....making up for merely-ok Firebird and a mostly-mediocre Scheherazade. Yet again, Chopiniana saved the day!

Welcome to the "Chop. club" troupe, Natasha! flowers.gif I'm Cristian, commander in chief.tiphat.gif

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Thanks, Cristian! I'm honored and Chop'ed!

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I've been thinking on the general approval from this site posters of Balanchine's latter versions of some of his ballets and improvements made as a result of his "less is best" position toward the end of his creative process, and how I percieve the opposite phenomenom regarding Chopiniana, where the fluffier the skirts, the more affected and stiff the poses, the whiter the makeup and the redder the lips, the better the ballet looks. I even like a lot the gothic-inspired ruins from the Fonteyn/Nureyev video. Definitely, with Les Sylphides, more is best.

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Cubanmiamiboy, the history of the different backdrops is a story unto itself! Today's Mariinsky reproduces the ca-1908 Corot-like autumnal trees backdrop by Orest Allegri, a great scenic designer of the Imperial Theaters. The "west" (UK, USA, etc.) is more familiar with the darker "church and cemetery ruins" backdrop that was designed by Alexander Benois for the Diaghilev company and subsequently 'kept' by post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes ventures...which toured all over the west. Back home in Petersburg-Leningrad, the set known to audiences has always been the Allegri one. I personally prefer the Allegri, as the Benois is too Giselle-like and, to me, Chopiniana should evoke very different feelings than does Giselle.

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